Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Friday 20 October 2017

'I would never go back to a traditional system'

"We spend about two hours every morning and every evening in the pens checking stock," says Frank of the daily routine.

"After that it's just a case of keeping cattle ready for loading and being prepared for the next batch to arrive. And keeping the kitchen primed for Maria."

Maria is the affectionate moniker that Frank and his farm manager Paudie O'Riordan have given the €140,000 Lely robot feeding system installed on the farm.

While Murphy has estimated that the system only costs €5/day to run in electricity costs, this figure does not include the back-up or maintenance costs that have yet to be teased out with Lely.

The 'kitchen' - the area cornered off for an automated loading system to take carefully measured grabs of fodder to Maria - is primed with large blocks of silage once every three days. All concentrates are added from an automated feed bin system.

Maria spends most of the day - and night - roaming around the feed aisles monitoring amounts and topping up if necessary.

Has Frank any regrets about the significant investment?

"None at all. We've saved on having a tractor and diet feeder tied up in the system, along with the labour involved in driving those machines. So I would never go back to the more traditional set-up," he states.

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GRASS VERSUS CONCENTRATES

Frank tried out a lot of different combinations before concluding that there was no real role for grass in his system.

"We started out with grass [silage] and concentrates and lots of nutritionists. But as I learned more about what the likes of Kepak and Goodman were doing, I realised that grass just isn't really a runner.

"Now we're using only maize or beet or wholecrop. In fact I'd nearly rate the wholecrop more than the maize, but we still grew about 150ac of maize this year, along with 50ac of wholecrop and another 50ac of beet," says Murphy.

During the autumn the cattle were being fed an average of 22kg/hd/day. This consisted of 2kg of 17pc protein concentrates, 13kg of wholecrop silage, 7kg of maize silage, along with minerals and buffers. The total cost of the diet is €1.62-1.82/hd/day.

Indo Farming